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Haifa Rashed - April 2013 journal letter

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QUNO, Geneva

Dear Friends

The EU-funded COPING research project that QUNO has been involved with for the last three years has come to an end. Whilst a lot of its findings confirmed our expectations about the harmful impact of parental imprisonment on a child’s mental health (including the fact that 25% of children with a parent in prison are at a high risk of mental health problems), some of the results were more surprising. Having a father in prison was found to be just as detrimental for the child’s wellbeing as having a mother imprisoned – this finding certainly challenges commonly held gender-based assumptions. Over the last couple of months we have met with different EU government representatives as well as UN and other agencies to start to disseminate the results and recommendations and will also be presenting these at a side event in the upcoming 22nd session of the Human Rights Council.

I recently attended a meeting of the Inter Quaker Criminal Justice Liaison Group, which is formed of different Quaker organisations and individuals worldwide who work on Criminal Justice issues. I found this particularly interesting as whilst Quakers may often have similar objectives, their specific focus may well differ between different contexts and it was interesting and useful to find out what Friends are working on and to share contacts and information. A number of the participants will represent Friends’ interests and concerns under the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC, QUNO’s parent body) at the UN Crime Commission in Vienna this April. For QUNO, this will be another opportunity for us to present our work on children of prisoners and children of parents sentenced to death.

The topic of children of parents sentenced to death came out of the 2011 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Day of General Discussion on children of prisoners. Since then, my predecessor Helen Kearney wrote a publication on the topic and started to build a network of contacts of individuals and NGOs worldwide who work with this vulnerable and marginalised group. This subject is extremely under-researched and we are now in the process of establishing how best to bring the issue to the international agenda.

As we Peaceworkers all approach the half-way point and plan to reunite with our counterparts from the Quaker Council for European Affairs and the QPSW UK Peaceworker scheme, it is a time to reflect but also to look ahead. I am looking forward to the second half of my placement, which promises to be extremely eventful, with further work to be done on the issue of conscientious objection to military service and with preparations already underway for the annual Summer School.

The balance between quiet diplomacy and off-the-record discreet activity and ensuring that our work and news is understood and shared among Friends presents certain distinct challenges. In order to communicate our work to a wider audience we have recently set up a QUNO Twitter account, where you can follow our latest news and read our latest publications. For those of you who Tweet, do follow us and encourage others to do the same.

Before Christmas, Ellie and I ventured to Basel where we visited its excellent Christmas market. I do enjoy travelling on the Swiss railway, particularly when the train passes an invisible border and the announcements start being made in German rather than French. The winter in Geneva has not been as bitterly cold as we were led to believe, I think last year’s lows of minus 12 degrees were exceptionally cold. The emergence of crocuses and daffodils in the Quaker House garden herald the impending arrival of spring, whilst the odd snowflake reminds us not to be too hasty in our anticipation of warmer times.

Ellie and I ran a workshop on QUNO’s work at the QPSW Spring Conference in April, and I enjoyed meeting some of you there. If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact me. To follow what I and the other QPSW Peaceworkers in Geneva, London and Burundi are doing on our year placement, please visit and sign up to receive updates from our blog and do spread the word!

In friendship,
Haifa